Are you intimidated by the prospect of "rescuing" a dog from a shelter? One reason that you may be wary of adopting a dog from a shelter is not knowing how to choose. Dog personalities are partially breed-specific, and seem to come in many more flavors than other pets. So many mixed breed dogs in shelters may lead you to believe that a rescue dog's temperament is a total gamble...
Will your new dog be badly behaved, even dangerous? Will you end up with a pet who has expensive, hidden health problems? The reality is that shelters will usually accommodate all of your concerns. Adopting a dog from a shelter can be a rewarding process, if you're prepared to do a reasonable amount of research.
Shelter pets are often exposed to infections, whether in their life prior to the shelter, or through close proximity to one another in the facility. Measures are usually taken to limit new infections within the facilities, but it is not always possible to prevent infection altogether.
Many of these illnesses are not sufficient cause to reconsider adoption, however. Shelter employees are obligated to inform you if a shelter pet is carrying an illness which cannot be successfully dealt with prior to adoption, which could require expensive vet bills down the road, or which could infect you or your other pets.
However, to those unfamiliar with the spectrum of diseases common among shelter dogs, any appearance of runny noses, sneezing or weepy eyes could trigger an instinctive fear of germs and disease. Don't be scared off by sneezes; look into it! If, for whatever reason, you don't trust your local shelter to give you a comprehensive picture of potential health risks, you can find an extensive list of common diseases carried by shelter dogs on sites like ShelterMedicine.com and AmericanHumane.org. You can print one out, and bring it along for reference.
Don't automatically rule out a dog based on disabilities, but don't overestimate your ability to meet a disabled dog's needs. Look into the particular condition, whether it be blindness, deafness, or a missing body part, and find out whether it comes with a financial burden or need for specialized care that you cannot provide.
Deafness, a limp or a missing eye could be relatively low maintenance, or they could come with expensive underlying health problems. Be able to evaluate which special needs you can handle, and which would be better left to more experienced caretakers of disabled dogs.
Although they are usually bathed and treated for fleas upon admittance, it's not uncommon for a shelter pet to be matted or ungroomed, particularly if they come into the shelter as a stray, or from a neglectful home. Consequently, long-haired rescues can suffer from an image problem, looking worse for wear than their short-coated counterparts.
Don't be put off by tangled locks; the dog can be fully or partially shaved as needed, and the fur allowed to grow anew. In fact, a shelter may closely trim a long-haired dog to remove any mats; this can have the effect of altering his appearance and making the potential fur length of his breed, or mix of breeds, unrecognizable to the layman.
If you're interested in adopting a "fluffy" dog with a certain coat style, you should know that many coat styles are created during grooming. For example, if you're looking for a terrier with hair styled in a "puppy cut," don't be put off if you find a stray whom the shelter has shaved for hygiene purposes. Conversely, if you're looking for a dog with short hair that doesn't require much grooming, be familiar enough with long haired breeds to know when you're looking at a shaved one, lest you be later caught off guard by encroaching fluff.
While it's true that many shelter dogs are mutts, it's not true that you'll be flying blind. Most dogs will retain an appearance that is easily identified as one or more breeds, and usually will retain some of the behavioral characteristics of that breed. See our complete Doggies.com breed guide resource here. For this reason, you need to have a clear picture of the kind of dog you want, not only visually, but in terms of temperament.
To save time, start by looking at a general list of adoptable shelter dogs in your area, like our Petfinder adoption search tool right here on dogies.com. Available breeds and mixes can vary by geographical area; take note of which are the most prevalent in your area, and take the time to read about each breed. You can also do targeted searches of less common breeds in which you're interested, but being willing to consider commonly available breeds will increase your chances of finding a rescue dog who is right for you.
Note that some breeds who look very much alike can have very different temperaments. For example, a Havanese is similar in appearance to several terrier breeds, but tends to be less aggressive and more of a lapdog. Be aware of how a mix might alter a breed's projected characteristics. Knowing a dog's breed profile is not the only variable in determining his personality, but it's a good place to start. As with your health research, don't hesitate to bring along a printout for reference.
It's true that raising a puppy is a different experience than adopting a dog who is a year old or more. However, different doesn't necessarily mean better. While most of the time, puppies are going to be more popular with potential adopters, in some ways they are the riskiest choice. One thing to remember about puppies in a shelter is that you don't know what you're signing up for. You don't know if they were rescued from a puppy mill who bred serious health problems or temperament flaws into the puppies, and you don't know whether a stray puppy's immune system has been compromised due to lack of care. If you do rescue a puppy, you must be prepared for the unknown.
It's not true that adult shelter dogs are always badly behaved. Much of a dog's temperament is hereditary, and even in cases of previous abuse or neglect, a dog does not always develop dangerous or disruptive behavior. Don't take on more than you can handle, but be aware that a dog's history does not always determine its temperament. Many adult rescues are sweet-tempered and manageable. Some even come from prior homes in which they were adequately trained, and may already respond well to basic commands.
Keep in mind that with an adult dog, you get a much more complete picture of what you're getting into. You can see his fully-formed features, you can get a sense of his behavior patterns, and you can see if his health is stable or if he has chronic health problems. Additionally, you will have a much wider selection of dogs if you choose to adopt an adult, even if you limit your search to dogs under three years old.
You can view updated photos and descriptions of most shelter dogs in north america right here on Doggies.com! Most pets will be designated a case number even if they don't already have names, and you can easily jot down the identifying details of any dogs you would like to meet. Some shelters even provide an overview of the dog's personality to aid in your search. You may need to visit more than one shelter in order to find the right dog for you, and knowing which dogs you're going to see will save you time.
It's no secret that taking on a new pet is a big responsibility, no matter where you get them. While shelter pets can carry a more affordable price tag, and can even be well-behaved, the need for patience and responsibility is no less paramount. Lack of preparedness, financial or otherwise, is one of the most common reasons that well-meaning adopters later choose to surrender their pet to a shelter, but this doesn't have to happen to you. Being well-informed, and choosing your new pet carefully, will ensure that you don't bite off more than you can chew.
For more information on adopting Shelter Dogs see our article Adopting a Shelter Dog.
NUTRITION We all want to include our dogs in our holiday celebrations, but hopefully, you're aware that sharing table scraps with your dog isn't always the best idea.
HEALTH Summer is coming on fast, so itâ€™s time to plan how you will keep your dog safe and healthy through the lazy, carefree, warm days.
NUTRITION With the wide variety of food at Thanksgiving dinner, chances are you'll want to give your dog something special, too. If you're contemplating what to feed your dog for the holiday, here is a guide to a great Canine Thanksgiving Feast.
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DOG FUN Walking your dog is not only crucial to keeping him healthy and happy, it strengthens the bond between your canine friend and his caregiver. There are a lot of obstacles out there. Donâ€™t forget these simple tips to keep your walk fun and safe in the outside world.
HEALTH The same techniques that physiotherapists use to treat a variety of injuries and conditions in humans have been adapted to suit animals with great success. Family pets, show dogs, and working dogs can all benefit greatly from physiotherapy.Â Dogs whose activities involve a lot of agility are especially susceptible to the types of problems that physiotherapy can address.
FIRST TIME OWNERSBringing a dog into your family is a decision where many people donâ€™t realize itâ€™s magnitude until after they have the dog. There are a number of things that you need to research before you decide to purchase a dog, and it starts right in your own home.
HEALTH Many believe that a dog and a new baby cannot happily coexist, so therefore the dog has to go.Â This is not necessarily the case. Â A new baby does not mean you have to abandon your dog.
Dog Pregnancy Symptoms
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Indoor Dog Potties
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Your Dogâ€™s Digestive System
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Canine Respiratory System
BREATHINGThe basic function of your dog's respiratory system is to bring oxygen in to and remove carbon dioxide from the body. Knowing the symptoms of respiratory diseases can help you help your stay healthy.
Shelter Dog Adoption Tips for Success
ADOPTION Are you intimidated by the prospect of "rescuing" a dog from a shelter? One reason that you may be wary of adopting a dog from a shelter is not knowing how to choose. Adopting a dog from a shelter can be a rewarding process, if you're prepared to do a reasonable amount of research.
Canine Urinary Tract Infections
SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENTDoes your dog seem to be having trouble relieving his or her bladder? Learn how to recognize the signs of urinary tract infections and how to treat them before they spread.
What to do for Dog Diarrhea
SYMPTOMS AND REMEDIESIf you have dogs in your house for any length of time, you have likely experienced at least one bout of dog diarrhea. Beyond the pain in the tuckus involved in cleaning up the mess, you should know what causes diarrhea, and when it's important to see the vet.
What to do for a Dog Bite
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Top Ten Tips for Living with a Senior Dog
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